Half a year gone since a black hole formed over Central City, and it's still recovering from the destruction. The population wants to thank its savior, however, and decides on holding a ceremonial Flash Day–but Barry's refusing to go and withdrawing further and further into himself. Can his friends pull him out of his inexplicable despair in time to fight a metahuman even stronger than last season's Girder?
This episode opens with a fantasy scene; one so realistic and convincing I don't realize it's a fantasy until I see Eddie, alive and unharmed–and we suddenly cut to our hero, standing alone in STAR Labs. Barry's still working, but he's pushing away his friends, and looks like he's still in shock; his friends, led by Iris, are working to get him out of hiding and into at least some of the attention he deserves. It turns out that last season's cliffhanger turned into a double tragedy: not only did we lose Eddie from the team, but Firestorm followed the Flash into the Singularity in order to collapse the event horizon. While Flash and Martin Stein escaped, Ronnie Raymond is lost or presumed dead, swallowed by the unforgiving event horizon of a growing black hole.
Survivor's guilt is a terrible thing. I'm fairly certain Barry's falls into the category known as "imagined" guilt. Which is to say the events which happened, happened-at least until he travels through time. But Barry had no control over those events and only imagines he does. Had he stopped running around the black hole to contain its growth, Robbie and Stein would both surely have died. Had he prevented Eddie's death, Wells would likely have killed them all. To some extent, Barry's channeling his guilt into running and saving others. He's also very likely got a self-fulfilling death wish, and Iris is entirely right that Barry needs to man up and admit Cisco and Dr. Stein and others contribute to his success. I was glad that Iris convinced him to go to Flash Day. Barry needed the boost.
It's a testimony to the strength of the team that, when Iris calls, they're able to reform; even Caitlin, twice filled with guilt and loss over the second or third loss of Robbie (he died in the first accident, then sort of "died" when he became Firestorm in a different way, and now he's gone popping out of a black hole), comes when she's needed.
While Barry's been working at resolving more internal issues (I love the man, but dude, he complicates his life) Cisco and Joe have been working together to help Central City stay safe from metahumans. A new one, who looks suspiciously like the face on a dead body Barry and Joe recently examined, appears during the Mayor's rally on Flash Day and attacks the stage. It turns out he absorbs and channels radiation–and was sent to attack and kill Barry by a mysterious man named Zoom. Atom Smasher didn't impress me much - the special effects seemed a little subpar for this show, and I kept thinking "plastic blow-up doll" every time Atom Smasher started growing larger than man-size. Cisco, Caitlin and Stein work together well, pulling off the trap for Atom. What was interesting was someone with his level of power could be commanded by this Zoom - possibly the season's big bad, introduced really really early? His death was ugly enough that I almost felt sorry for him. (Almost; the bad beating he gave Flash early on made me wince. Thank the Great Particle Accelerator in the Sky for healing powers.)
If there's a weakness of this episode, it's that there's too many plotlines. Somewhere in between all this action, Barry gets a visit from a lawyer–and Wells has left Barry both STAR Labs and a mysterious living will. Caitlin convinces him to check it out, and a very emotional and honest message from Eobard Thawne ensues... during which he confesses the murder of Nora Allen. Of course, this means Barry's Dad goes free. Grant Gustin does a remarkable job showing the gamut of emotions as Wells/Thawne goes through his message–and incidentally, opening the message means STAR Labs stays in Barry's hands.
I'm not sure this next part is a weakness, but it made me furious. They bring Barry's father home, make him a cake, give several tearful speeches... and then Barry's dad leaves. He tells Barry if he stays he'd be holding Barry back from growing up–and let's keep in mind we have a college-educated forensic specialist under discussion here who's just rescued the world from a black hole, folks. Then he walks out of Barry's life. I personally think he's terrified he can't compete with Joe and the ghost of Harrison Wells - or the high-class Martin Stein, whose good (but slightly pompous) speech is the last thing he hears before he breaks loose. All this feels as if it's happening almost too fast. Barry even accepts it more easily and quickly than I thought he might.
Oh yeah, and then some dude who's been taking photos of Barry all episode shows up and gives him a Dire Hellmouth Warning; he calls himself Jay Garrick, but could he be Zoom? After last season, and more than one shapeshifter, I make no assumptions–and neither should you.
Bits and Pieces
The captions were a mess. I just rewatched parts of the episode on Hulu, and the online captions were so much better than the prime-time captions it's ridiculous. The captions were appearing seconds before and after people spoke, on my end. I was able to keep up but... Other friends reported dialogue gaps in the captions. Sort of hoping that the CW gets its stuff together on this.
I don't know if this show plans for Cisco to actually get controllable powers, but his ability to see to other worlds seems to still be here. Looking forward to his developing these powers over this season–and here's hoping he never loses his innocence.
Stein naming Atom Smasher, and Cisco giving him a hug for joining the Name Club. (See? Innocence.)
Can I call it... the Flash Flare? (I want to be in the name club, too.)
Cisco begging for a badge, and getting one by the end of the episode!
Joe making Barry feel better by saving the Key to the City for him. So cute!
Iris: Yeah, but he should go. Someone should try to get through to him.
Joe: Maybe his best friend?
Cisco: Joe, believe me. I have tried!
Joe (indicating Iris): I meant her.
Caitlin: STAR Labs is safer than ever. Increased security and surveillance.
Cisco: Recoded, double firewalled, electronic locksets. Nothing is getting through here without us knowing.
Iris: So people can't just waltz in and out of here.
(a shadowy man enters, causing general alarums and for Joe to draw his gun.)
Cisco: For real?
This episode hit so many buttons I didn't know what to do. It definitely kept up the pace of the previous episode, but it feels like the central part of a three-parter. I can't wait for the follow up. Four out of four metahuman-enhancing Boots.
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